Poverty is both:

  • the lack of access to an adequate material standard of living (in terms of food, shelter, clothing and health) resulting primarily, but not only, from inadequate income; and
  • the lack of opportunity to participate fully in society (for example through employment, education, recreation and social relationships).


Income Poverty

The most widely used definition of poverty in OECD countries is 50% of median household income adjusted for household size and composition.

This provides an estimate of the number of people who are living below what is considered a basic living standard. The 2022 Poverty in Australia Snapshot found that there are 3.3 million people (13.4%) living below the poverty line of 50% of median income, including 761,000 children (16.6%). In dollar figures, the poverty line worked out to $489 a week for a single adult and $1,027 a week for a couple with two children.

Applying the measure of 50% of median income in Western Australia, after housing costs, 325,700 people (13%) were living in poverty, including 85,000 children, in 2022. This includes people on government payments. JobSeeker and the maximum rate of Commonwealth Rent Assistance, when combined only provide a total of $386.15 per week.  Measuring other gradations of poverty (30%,40%,50% and 60% of median income) allows an exploration of the depth of poverty. In WA 86,514 people (3.4%) were living in severe poverty on less than 30% of median income.

Multi-dimensional aspects of poverty

It is widely acknowledged that poverty is more than an absence of material income or wealth. Non-material aspects include inadequate education, chronic health conditions, social exclusion, living in unsafe conditions or under the threat of violence. These factors are all intertwined and can be understood to have a compounding effect as contributors to poverty, as well as being exacerbated by living in poverty.

Material deprivation and social exclusion

Material deprivation exists when someone is unable to buy goods or services that are widely accepted as community norms.  A measure of deprivation is more accurate or meaningful than an income measure alone to ascertain levels of poverty.

A Social Exclusion Monitor (SEM) has been developed, that is able to capture multiple dimensions that marginalise and exclude people from parts of society. This includes indicators across seven domains: material resources, employment, education and skills, health and disability, social connection, community and personal safety.